I bought my checkerboard Vans in March 2013, shortly before a study abroad trip to France during my junior year of high school. This pair was the second incarnation of my beloved checkerboard sneaks: I had another pair that lasted me from freshman year through the summer after sophomore year. But two beach vacations and many walks around town later, my original Vans were shot. My mom insisted that I buy a new pair before stomping around Paris and the French Riviera with my friends, and I decided she was right.
These sneakers–a flat, skater-style slip-on sneaker with a gray canvas outer shell and a black and white checkerboard-printed upper–saw the world with me. Together, we traveled through Paris and ran through les belles rues, dizzy with excitement. We traveled around the beautiful beaches of Nice, and they slipped off with ease as I dared to walk barefoot along the pebbled shore. We biked all the way around Ocean Beach, Fire Island and back to my uncle’s beach house on Superior Street. We ran in the sand at Jones Beach. We traversed the streets of lower Manhattan, searching for the latest and greatest bookstore, boutique or coffee joint. We fell in love with SUNY New Paltz and the village we now call home.
My last years of high school and my first year of college were entirely transitory. I gained and lost weight, made friends and drifted apart from friends, moved to a new town, went to a new school, started multiple new jobs and traveled more than ever before. There wasn’t much that remained constant over those many months, but I knew that without fail, I could always slip on my checkerboard Vans and run out the door.
Three years later, my beloved kicks have taken quite the beating. Their soles are torn in two, and the upper layers of the shoes protrude precariously from the soles. Their heels have worn thin after months and months of being lazily kicked off. The checkerboard pattern, once a stark contrast of white and black squares, has faded into two alternating shades of dull gray.
Yet I find myself utterly reluctant to say goodbye.
The truth is, these sneakers hold more memories in the rubber of their soles than any Facebook post or Instagram photo. I know the significance I’ve attached to my sneakers is fictional; sure, they mean a lot to me, but my Vans are only a pair of shoes. The logical part of me says that I should be able to throw them away with ease. It’s only a matter of time before I literally wear them into the ground.
But my sentimental nature says otherwise. Here I am, sitting in a coffee shop, penning a eulogy for a pair of sneakers. Talk about words I never thought I’d think, let alone publish.
With a heavy heart, I officially lay my checkerboard Vans to rest. To my sneaks: thanks for the memories. Thanks for keeping my feet warm and dry. Thanks for being the most stylish (albeit the least supportive) sneakers in the world. Thanks for being good to me.
Rest in peace.